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in local groups, in sectional conferences, or in national conventions, they are discussing it, legislating upon it, and are appealing to Congress for relief. The issue which has been raised must, therefore, be met fairly and squarely. It cannot longer be evaded, and the opinion is here ventured that no further attempt will be made to evade it.
These facts are plainly stated, but not more so than the state of the public mind warrants. The distressing experience of American business during the two years past-and American business is the very life of the American nation-has brought home to us the blundering policy of the past. It has demonstrated the supreme folly of placing our foreign trade at the mercy of alien ships. It has shown us what a loss we sustained when we surrendered our merchant marine and retired as a factor in the world's over-seas shipping.
For many years it was difficult to arouse widespread interest in this question. The
interior element of our people regarded it as a sectional problem. They left its solution to the seaboard States. The farmer was unable to see wherein it concerned him. The merchant and the manufacturer of the mid-sections had a like point of view. They refused to be concerned about ocean transportation so long as the goods they bought or the products they sold were delivered. Ways and means were questions too remote to enter into their calculations.
When, however, the shock of a world-war came, paralyzing almost over night the trade channels of two continents; when every vessel flying the German or Austrian flag was withdrawn from the seas; when half a thousand British ships were commandeered for military purposes; when grain and cotton, and even manufactures, were refused bottoms at our ports; when domestic stagnation followed and financial ruin threatened the tens of thousands of producers within our borders; when these
things came to pass, all because we had no merchant marine of our own, only then did the question of shipping become a personal matter at every fireside on this continent. It touched the pocketbook of every American citizen and involved the prosperity and happiness of every American home. It is that circumstance which has compelled a reopening of the question with a renewed effort to find a remedy and to put that remedy into immediate effect.
I assume, therefore, that there is today little or no difference of opinion among the thoughtful people of this country as to the necessity for a merchant marine. If there be such a difference, it is not reflected in the press, in the utterances of our public men, or in the councils of trade. It has made itself felt nowhere. There are, however, wide differences of opinion upon the question of how our flag may be restored to the seas. And due respect must be given to the diverse views upon this subject. For
more than twenty years the
been debated by public men.
Upon the so
lution of the proposition master minds have dwelt, and around it political issues have been built. All this has happened without either bringing us to a consummation of our national aspiration or pointing the way to a successful policy.
Many men of broad vision sincerely doubt the practicability of re-establishing an American merchant marine without absolutely revolutionary changes in our navigation laws and without a repudiation of our policy toward maritime labor. Moreover, there are some who can conceive of no solution for the problem other than by straight subsidies from the Federal Government, gratuitous bounties which shall offset the difference in conditions of navigation among American merchantmen and the merchantmen of competing nations.
Others there are who contend with force that the Federal Government itself must
embark upon this enterprise; that the pioneering must be done by an interest having boundless resources; an interest that is not compelled to concern itself with dividends to its stockholders or returns to its bondholders; an interest that can afford to suffer losses and sustain them for an indefinite period; an interest that has a single purpose the general welfare of the nation as a whole. Obviously there is but one such interest, and that is the Government of the United States.
Each of these conflicting views is held by men of standing, and they are entitled, therefore, to the most thoughtful consideration by all elements of our people.
It is my purpose to present a relief measure which will, in my judgment, harmonize in a large degree different opinions and bring together in a common bond those earnest men upon whom, as the representatives of all the people, rests the responsibility of dealing with these issues. And the pro